Thursday, December 31, 2009

Shot a doe this morning . . .

Well, I'm ending 2009 on a pretty good note. I was able to take a doe this morning and put some more venison in the freezer. It was about a 65-yard shot with my .30-06, and there was no tracking this one. She dropped in her tracks. I'm partial to archery equipment, but taking this one with the rifle this morning helped to get rid of the bitter taste in my mouth from losing the big buck last week.

I tried to take a picture with my trail camera, but apparently I was too close and the picture only includes me and not the deer. I couldn't help but laugh when I got home and looked at the pictures of me kneeling on the ground with a big grin on my face and no deer in the picture.

I was able to check some trail cameras and a new buck showed up on one of them that I have never seen before. We usually don't get much snow, but this past week we got a couple good snow storms. So this is a unique picture for me. Check out the tine-length on this dude!

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

The Oink Stops Here

I just got these pictures yesterday in an email from Clayton Bowen, who is an old buddy of mine that I used to run around with in my younger days. (Not that I'm old, but now that I'm 30 I can say that.) These hogs were killed in Grayson County, Texas, just a stone's throw from where I grew up.

So I replied back and asked him what the story was on these hogs, and here is what he had to say:

"Well I started walking through the woods with the wind in my face looking for them. I actually didn't see them first, I smelled them. Once I smelled them I got really still and slipped up on them and shot the orange one first. Then about 200 yards later I happened on another pair of them and got a head shot on the black one. Both of them weighed about 100 pounds. These two were part of the five that I shot and trapped two weeks ago. I shot another big sow Saturday night on the same place. But there were only about 50 in that group!!!"

If you have never been around any of these wild hogs, then you probably don't understand how he could have smelled them before he saw them. Trust me, you can! When my dad and I were looking for a doe I shot a few weeks ago, we were walking through a really thick part of the woods and we both caught wind of a really rank, musky smell. (I could insert lots of jokes here . . .) I said I bet it was hogs, and sure enough, about 10 minutes later one jumped up and ran ahead of us. They are definitely odoriferous!

Even though wild hogs are a nuisance to many landowners and even some hunters, they make for a great game animal to pursue! In Texas we have no closed season on them and they can be hunted with any means or methods, so the opportunities are almost endless.

Sounds like you had a great hunt, Bowen! It doesn't sound like there is a shortage of pigs on that place either! Thanks for the pictures.

Monday, December 28, 2009

More memorable moments . . .

In one of my last posts I mentioned that my latest hunting trip had several memorable moments (in addition to the encounter with the big 10-point). One of those happened while we were searching for the buck. During the course of combing the woods to find the elusive "Ghost Buck", I stumbled across a pretty nice shed antler. I was walking through an area that was really thick with mesquite, and as I ducked under a low-hanging limb I saw this antler lying on the ground.

This is only the third shed antler I have ever found, and it is definitely the biggest. Only one of the three antlers did I find while actually looking for sheds. The other two have just been by accident. This one is missing the brow tine, but still tapes out at over 40". That's not bad for a mainframe 8-point.

On Tuesday morning my dad and I decided to sit together for the hunt. We both sat on the ground - he on one side of a tree and me on the other. Shortly after sunrise I thought I would see if I could get a response to some antler rattling. After one rattling sequence, I heard my dad whisper, "Rob, here's one." I looked back over my shoulder and a young 4-point had responded to the call and was standing about 30 yards in front of my dad.

Since we got such a good response I thought I would try it again. So I made another rattling sequence and this time we had a nice little 8-point come in. I was able to snap a picture with my phone looking over my dad's shoulder.

These close encounters are what make deer hunting so much fun! This little buck lived to see another day and hopefully I can rattle him in again when he grows up.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Top 50 Hunting Blog Posts of 2009

Sometimes I wonder who is actually reading the stuff I write on this blog. I originally started this blog as sort of an online scrapbook and a way for all my friends and family to see the results of my latest hunting trip. But none of my friends or family ever leave a comment on this blog, so I have no clue if they read it or not. (Yeah, I'm a little bitter about it.) I can make a new post and get a hundred hits on this site in a day's time and maybe have one or two comments to show for it, usually from people I've never met in my life. I think I've gotten hits on this site from every continent but Antarctica, so I'm always curious who my readers are.

A couple days ago I was reading a blog post by Rick Kratzke of the Whitetail Woods blog when I came across a pleasant surprise. His blog post mentioned that one of his blog entries had made the Top 50 Hunting Blog Posts of 2009. Rick mentioned that there were some other familiar bloggers on the list as well, so I thought I would check it out. I followed the link he provided to a website called Hunting Business Marketing, where the author of this site had listed "The Top 50 Hunting Blog Posts of 2009".

I scrolled down seeing names like Michael Waddell and David Blanton (both of Realtree Outdoors),, and Cabela's. Then there at the bottom of the list at number 50 was Rob's Hunting Journal. Apparently my "First Day of Fall Pheasant Wreath" post made the list. I thought that was pretty cool that somebody thought my blog was worthy enough to be included! If you get a chance, check out the link above to see the entire list.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

It was the Best of Times, It was the Worst of Times . . .

The deer season calamity continues. I write this with much sorrow and anguish.

Rewind to Saturday morning at about 8:15 when my cell phone rings. My good friend Lee Flannery (who also hunts the same property I do) called with the sound of excitement in his voice. He and his son were out deer hunting and had just had a close encounter with a REALLY nice 10-point buck. Lee described the deer as "the biggest one he had seen on this place". Problem was, the deer was just across the fence on the property to the south of us. Lee had rattled the buck to within 50 yards, but he just couldn't coax him across the fence to be able to make a legal shot. However, he was able to snap a quick picture before the deer walked away.

This was actually Lee's second encounter with this big deer. The first time he saw him was a couple weeks ago, but the deer was several hundred yards away and it was really early in the morning when the light was still too low to really get a good look at him. Both times the deer showed up in pretty much the same spot - the edge of a winter wheat field on the very far south end of the property we hunt.

Lee was planning on hunting through Sunday morning, and said he would email me the picture as soon as he got home that afternoon. I had put in for some vacation days at work, and my plans were to go hunting beginning on Sunday evening. So I eagerly waited for the email with the picture of the bruiser buck. Although he saw a lot of deer over the course of the weekend, this buck never showed back up for Lee.

My dad and I have both been strictly bowhunting for the entire season. For this weekend we decided to change gears and break out the rifles in an effort to put some meat in the freezer. This would be the first time I have rifle hunted in several years - not because I don't like rifle hunting, I just love bowhunting that much.

We got to the lease in time to hunt Sunday evening, and we both hunted this same wheat field - my dad on the south end (where Lee had seen the big one) and I was several hundred yards away on the north end. I was planning on taking the first doe that provided a shot, so I picked out a spot where I had been seeing alot of deer cross from a mesquite thicket over into the field. I saw several deer that evening and even had a young buck within range, but the does I saw were in some real thick cover making even a rifle shot almost impossible. Most of the activity I saw was a pretty good distance to the north, and it seemed like quite a few deer were passing through a clearing on the opposite side of the thicket. So I decided that Monday morning I would move north about 200 yards and set up where I could see this clearing.

After the Sunday evening hunt, the much-anticipated email arrived on my inbox on my phone. I opened it up and this is what I saw.

"Oh my goodness! Lee, you weren't kidding. That's an exceptional deer!" - These were the thoughts going through my mind as I looked at this picture.

The area we hunt is not known for trophy deer. A buck in the 140" to 150" range would be a real trophy for this part of the country, and anything over 125" is definitely respectable. After looking at the picture closely I called Lee and we discussed the deer. We both agreed that he would go 130", as we had tried to conservatively estimate his Boone & Crockett score.

Monday morning arrived and we almost accidentally overslept. We headed to our spots and I found a good spot to sit on the ground against a mesquite tree. It was about 7:00 AM when I got situated. Sunrise was at 7:30, so it was already legal shooting hours by the time I got in place. The wind was out of the south, and I figured it would be in my favor if the deer crossed in the same spot as the evening before. About 20 minutes after I sat down I glanced to my left and saw three does about 50 yards away. The closest one was a nice mature one, so I eased the gun into shooting position and squeezed off a round. She bucked and ran about 50 yards and I saw her go down.

I have to admit, at that point I was thinking there is nothing to this whole rifle hunting thing, because that just seemed way too easy. Little did I know how quickly that thought would come back to haunt me.

I grabbed my phone and texted my wife and a couple friends to let them know I had just shot a doe. I thought I would sit there another half hour or so and maybe get another shot at a doe if one walked by. About 10 minutes later one of my friends replied back to my text and was asking me if I was really excited about shooting the doe. I started to reply back, and my text was going to read something like this - "Yeah I'm excited, but this rifle hunting doesn't get me as fired up as bowhunting". The text never got sent. Right as I was in the middle of typing it I heard something behind me.

I glanced over my right shoulder and noticed a little fork-antlered buck about 50 yards behind me. He was looking my direction, but then he started moving to the south so I slowly turned my head around the other way to watch. That's when I saw him - the buck from Lee's picture. The big buck was between 40 and 50 yards away standing directly facing me with his head turned to his right looking at the younger buck. The sun was just starting to creep over the horizon, and the silhouette of this buck against the pinkish-purple backdrop is an image stamped in my brain.

I immediately knew he was a shooter. There was no doubting that. I was already holding my binoculars so I eased them up to my face to take a better look. I took a quick look at his left antler and counted 5 points. I don't even remember looking at the other side. I eased the gun into shooting position and stared through the scope. I put the crosshairs right on his neck and then lowered them to the center of his chest and fired the gun.

He dropped like a sack of potatoes. It was like all four legs just collapsed underneath him. He was just laying there. I was so excited I couldn't believe what had just taken place. I could see him on the ground with his left antler sticking up above the grass and I just kept thinking how awesome he looked. This was my best deer ever.

I grabbed my binoculars again to take a better look at him. I stared at him for probably 20 or 30 seconds and I noticed he started flopping a little bit, but nothing unusual as it takes a little while for a deer to expire after the impact of the shot. He layed still again. I raised up to my knees to see a little better and I noticed that he tried to raise his head up but he wasn't having much luck. I continued to watch as he just lay there and then he started moving again - this time he tried to get to his feet and he staggered around for a few steps and fell back over. I figured he was down for the count. I continued to watch for another 20 or 30 seconds as he just lay there.

Then the unthinkable happened.

About a minute and a half after I had shot the deer, the buck hops to his feet and runs off, jumping a fence about 40 yards away. He disappeared into some mesquite trees and I lost sight of him. I called my dad on the phone and told him about the two deer I had just shot. He was really excited and he started making his way toward me so that we could look for the buck. It took my dad about 15 minutes to walk to my location, so I just sat there and waited for him. After he got there, we went and recovered the doe and brought her closer to the truck.

We found blood at the site where the big buck was standing when I shot, but not very much. With a straight-on chest shot that is to be expected, because more than likely there was not an exit wound. We found more blood at the fence where the deer had crossed and then began to pick up a decent blood trail. We followed the trail for about 60 or 70 yards and then couldn't find another drop. I was on my hands and knees looking and couldn't see a speck of blood anywhere.

To try to make this long, miserable story a little shorter - we never found the deer. We looked for the better part of the day. We gridded the area and tied ribbons to mark transects we had searched. I tried to find someone in the area with tracking dogs but had no luck. We searched more on Tuesday morning. Nothing.

I don't know what happened. I've had so many questions and emotions go through my mind since that shot that it has all been a whirlwind experience. It was one of the best hunting experiences I have ever had, and it was one of the worst hunting experiences I have ever had.

I've tried to look back at this episode and draw some kind of a positive from this whole turn of events and here is what I've come up with so far.
1. It was definitely a memorable moment that my dad and I will share for years to come.
2. I've learned some things I will do differently next time (like wait for a better shot angle).
3. Most importantly, it was a life-lesson in humility. Just when I thought I had it all together, things came crashing down. Pride comes before the fall.

I'm not going to let it ruin my season. The weekend did have a couple more memorable events that I will have to discuss in another post. There are still a few weeks left in the season and I plan on trying to take another doe to fill the freezer. For now, here is a picture of the doe I shot Monday morning. The big smile on my face is not only because I was happy about harvesting the doe, but I seriously thought I would be posing with a big 10-point in the near future. It just wasn't meant to be.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

My Nephew's Deer

I just got this picture from my nephew, Ryan Anderton. He harvested this doe earlier this morning with a rifle on a ranch in Montague County, Texas. Ryan is 16 years old and this is his second deer.

Congratulations Ryan!

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Monday, December 14, 2009

Deer Season Woes

This deer season has been filled with lots of memorable moments, but unfortunately I still have a license full of deer tags. I've seen more deer this season than in any other season I have hunted, but I just haven't been provided many shot opportunities with the bow.

This past Saturday morning I finally had a doe within bow range. At about 7:30 I had three does walk by my stand. The wind was in my favor, and one of the does was standing broadside in front of me at about 28 yards. I loosed an arrow and felt confident in the shot I made. I waited about 30 minutes, then called my dad who was in a stand about 300 yards away, and we began the tracking job.

I immediately found the arrow. It was a complete pass-thru and there was blood on the arrow all the way from the broadhead to the nock, but it wasn't covered in blood like you would expect to see after a good shot. I didn't see any blood on the ground in the immediate area where the deer had been standing. We found the first drop of blood about 20 yards from the site of impact. I began to get concerned, as that was not a good sign.

For the next 4 1/2 hours my dad and I followed a very skimpy blood trail that covered about a 1/2 mile in distance. It was such a small amount of blood that we actually lost the trail on more than half a dozen occasions. It was like someone had taken an eye-dropper and squeezed out a drop or two every 8 - 10 feet. If it weren't for my dad's excellent tracking skills, I would have lost the trail early on during the search, but he had a keen eye to spot those tiny drops and to notice areas where the leaf litter had been disturbed. The deer had gone about 300 - 400 yards south of where I shot her, looped back to the west another 100 yards or so behind the stand my dad was in, and then cut back to the north another couple hundred yards, almost making a complete circle. The last two drops of blood we found were about 20 - 30 feet apart on a trail that was heading toward a large stock tank. The whole trail looked like she had just gone about her business browsing along as there never was a place that looked like she had bedded down. It almost looked like she might have gone to the tank to get a drink and then went on her way.

I hate that we weren't able to recover her. My hope is that I didn't hit any vitals and the deer will survive the wound. As I think back on the shot, the deer ducked slightly as I shot, but I thought it was a double-lunger. I must have hit a little high and too far back. I could make excuses and blame the conditions or my equipment, but the matter of the fact is I just didn't make a good shot. My fault.

After calling off the search, my dad and I were starved. So we each filled our guts with more than one double-meat-double-cheese burger from Herd Hamburger in Jacksboro. That, combined with a cold Dr Pepper, hit the spot and helped to ease some of the frustration brought about by the morning's events.

Later that evening we hunted along the edge of a winter-wheat field. I saw 17 deer that evening with all of them being does. I had taken my bow as well as my rifle with me, but I decided not to shoot.

Next week I am going to get down to business when it comes to deer hunting. I've got some vacation days planned, and it will be my number one goal to put some meat in the freezer. Until then, here are some recent trail camera pics.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Aren't You Missing Something?

I got this picture from one of my trail cameras the last time I checked them. I assume this deer lost his antler in a fight with another buck, but I guess there could be other explanations. It is hard to tell because of all the raindrops on the lens, but I think this is a buck that I have gotten pictures of a few weeks ago that I call "Unfinished Business". He had really small brow tines and G-2's that were quite a bit shorter than his G-3's. Anyway, I thought it was an interesting picture.